The Ga word for this festival, Homowo literally means “hooting at hunger” and the origin of this name and the Homowo Harvest Festival goes back to a very significant time of hardship for the Ga people - very much like our Thanksgiving that goes back to the significant dinner between Pilgrims and Indians.
The Ga of Ghana
To understand the significance of Homowo and farming for the Ga tribe of Ghana in West Africa, we must look back into their history.
The Ga have an interesting past of frequent migration around the continent of Africa. They traveled for many years before reaching the west coast of the Accra region of Ghana, where they now live. In this migration to pre-colonial Ghana, they suffered a severe famine brought on by poor rainfall. The people were so close to starvation that they embarked on a vicious cycle of food cultivation in desperation and in the hope of rain.
The Homowo Festival Rituals
The start of Homowo Harvest Festival begins when the first crops are sown. One of the first crops, millet, is blessed by the traditional priests ahead of the rainy season in May. This is then followed by a series of rituals to mark the festival season. Among these rituals is a 30-day ban on drumming, and a few days of rest leading up to the feast where no land is worked or fishing is allowed. In rituals like these the Ga prepare to concentrate on their crops and calm the sea gods.
Traditional dishes that are made for the Homowo feast are palm nut fish soup and a corn powder dish. The day of the actual feast is followed by dances and parades throughout the towns, which lasts several days.
Although there are significant differences between North America’s Thanksgiving and the Homowo Harvest Festival, the values behind these annual celebrations are the same, or at least stem from the same morals like hard work, perseverance, community and thankfulness for mother earth’s life-giving food. These traditional celebration are also times when family will reunite, travelling long distances sometimes, to celebrate and share a special dinner with their loved ones.
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